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Outrageous Betrayal: The Real Story of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile Hardcover – August, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Before he abandoned his wife and children, changed his name to Werner Erhard, moved to California and began promoting his self-awareness programs, known in the 1970s as est and later as the Forum, Jack Rosenberg was a car salesman in Philadelphia. Inspired by a self-help course called Mind Dynamics, by Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich , by Scientology and cybernetics, and advised by a skilled tax lawyer, Erhard launched est in 1971. And for 20 years he reigned as guru of the "human potential movement." According to freelance journalist Pressman, the womanizing, charismatic and demanding Erhard collected tens of millions of dollars from 500,000 people who took his courses. Eventually lawsuits, desertions among his coterie and the rise of new New Age mind-improving programs ended Erhard's empire and in 1991, owing millions to the IRS and others, he went into exile in Mexico. Pressman here cuts into him with surgical precision.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Pressman, a San Francisco-based journalist, offers a compelling account of the 1980s guru who rose from selling used cars to peddling personal transformation. Erhard's dubious Est program--today known as The Forum--promises outlandish benefits in return for outlandish cash outlays. Like many of his predecessors, (notably L. Ron Hubbard, the demented fabricator of Scientology, whom Erhard briefly followed), Erhard progressed from a tireless, aggressive proselytizer to a psychotic egomaniac. Pressman skillfully documents Erhard's ascension to godlike status, and his irrevocable, shameful plummet following an episode that aired in 1991 on 60 Minutes , in which Erhard's daughter accused him of sexual abuse (a charge that Erhard allegedly deflected by characterizing it as "a nurturing experience"). Most public libraries should place this expose on the same shelves as Wendy Kaminer's I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional ( LJ 6/1/92).
- Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The writer's incredible slant/bias/opinion that is injected into this information is unfortunate. His need to tell the reader his opinion of what we are reading - sucks - and detracts from the value of the research work performed.
I also find it almost amusing that serious consideration was not given to hundreds of thousands of EST and Landmark alumni from some of the world's most respected disciplines and vocations including educators, clergy, business executives, medical and psychiatric professionals, philosophers, government leaders, etc. who have praised and then recommended first the EST and then the Landmark Education programs to others. If one is to believe Steven Pressman they must all be stupid, duped, gullible fools, unlike him, upon whom Erhard simply would not put one over.
That Mr. Pressman was not interested in finding the well documented contributions of Werner Erhard to millions world wide (The Hunger Project, etc.) should not stop anyone else from doing so.
Since my first experience of EST in 1981, there is not one day that goes by that I don't use something I learned from the Werner Erhard programs I attended. Of course it helped that I, unlike this author, did not have a glaringly obvious bias starting out.
So I can believe my own experience and those of hundreds of thousands of others who say they have benefited greatly by their course participation, or I can buy into this author's subjective misrepresentation of Erhard and his long lasting, proven programs. As someone who became a CEO, best selling business book author, successful parent and contented human being, I make no apologies for crediting very much of what I have to Werner Erhard's work. Easy choice.
It all came flooding back to me, the EST training, followed by a communication seminar, an advanced communication seminar, the Six Day training (where we were to become "commandos", were required to watch some, er, "offbeat" movies, and talk about real personal stuff), then Mastery Of Empowerment, where we did Zen like meditations, repeatedly acknoledged that Werner was Source (of ??? not exactly specified), and got a jolly good vibe going.
Oh yes, there were also seminars with Fernando Flores, an interesting fellow who was once the finance minister for Salvador Allende, heavily into language and information theory... once upon a time Werner's left brain, so to speak, who inexplicably wasn't there on Mount Olympus one day...
Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff, many narratives woven together that many self proclaimed Forumites don't know about, weren't there when it happened, all of which got simplified and cooked down into easy to digest tales of days gone by.
Let me tell ya something. It never is so simple, never was, never will be. Pressman's book Outrageous Betrayal rings true as pure coin to my ears, it succeeeds in capturing the flavor of the 70's into the 80's hustle, the strange blend of improvisation, amateurishness, needfulness, as well as the intensity, the drive, the self deception, and the absurdity of that era. Werner was kind of an uber-manifestation of all that.
Somewhere along the line I found myself growing. The sense of community and shared purpose that once was sustaining and uplifting turned stale and oppressive. It was time to move on,
grow up another notch, leave the great psychodrama behind for another generation to project it's unresolved collective issues on.
Reflecting on it, there is no way that something as intense and nutso, while mind expanding and challenging too, could have possibly happened had Werner Hans been a normal run of the mill dude. You couldn't get there from here without the sound and the fury.
Its that complexity, trickster archetype, puer aeternus and senex stuff that James Hillman talked about that Pressman can't wrap his mind around, 'cause he's treating Werner as just another scandalous mountebank when he was much more than that.
I still loved reading the book, no qualmes with the truth telling approach, Pressman is right on with what he says, only too bad he couldn't fold it in with the larger story, which isn't all that sweet and perfect either, just larger, weirder, more glorious, and kinda creepy too...
To this day I ask myself, what the heck was THAT ???
The I discovered a fantastic little book written in 1895 by Gustave Le Bon titled The Crowd... most highly recommended for anyone thinking about LGATs or mass thinking of any kind. This incredible book put it into perspective for me. I think it should be required reading for every college student in America.
If you are considering any large group spiritual or self help-transformative seminar, please take the time to read Le Bon's masterpiece carefully, and read it twice, and take notes, before you sign on the line.
Bon Voyage kiddos... life can surpass any fiction ever written